I am sure many of you wonder how to approach the still new and confusing world of digital publishing! It is so easy to get lost in all those numbers, aspect ratios, resolutions, orientations, devices. In this article we will try to make your life easier and to describe some of the things that you need to consider before producing digital publications.
You need to make some decisions way before the design process begins. It’s important to plan everything in advance. You should have a clear vision about the platforms and devices you wish to target. Decide if you want to do single or multi folio apps, do you wish to make a subscription model, or do you plan to have multiple ways to distribute apps created with the publishing solution of your choice.
To what devices do you want to publish your content? What will be the top targeting devices? What you want your readers to do with the application?
We will discuss some of these concerns, like dealing with resolution and aspect ratios in much more detail in future posts because they are extensive topics and deserve to explained in detail.
Before you even consider producing digital publication you have to decide what kind of app you want to produce. Digital replica or full interactive magazine app.
Digital Replica publications
The most common format in the digital publishing for tablets is digital replica. It can also be referred as interactive replica or print replica. In other words this is a replica of a print PDF version intended to be displayed on a digital device.
These kind of publications are easy to produce and they do not require much extra work since the print version of the PDF is already produced.
It all depends which service you will be using (like MagCast) but they commonly have limited additional features, like hyperlinks, slideshows, videos, sound, that can be added to the PDF file.
As mentioned in our introduction to digital publishing these kind of publications do not offer all of the features tablet devices have to offer.
One of the benefits of digital replica is that it is cheaper to produce since the platforms that offer the service of converting your PDF to digital replica are cheaper than the Adobe DPS or Mag+ solutions for example.
Digital replicas offer almost the same features but in a limited way. For example you cannot adjust font sizes in digital replica, the text does not re-flow automatically to fit different screens and they offer limited touch interactivity like tap and swipe.
If you want a full blown interactive version of your publication your best option is app based publication.
Fully interactive publications
These kind of publications was introduced as soon as the first tablet, the iPad, was released. They offer full touch interactivity of tablet devices and each day new tricks are being found to tease the reader’s imagination.
The beauty of this format is that you can produce numerous apps with already familiar tools without need to know any of the programming languages, although you can extend them with added HTML5 possibilities. Today almost any kind of printed publication can be converted to interactive digital publication. Books, newspapers, brochures, catalogs and of course magazines.
These kind of publications built specifically for tablet’s touch interfaces are fully interactive, media-rich, digital publications that fully exploit the user-interactivity features of tablets. You have the option to use audio, video, slideshows, 3D rotating objects, zooming, panning, replaceable content, scrolling regions, live web content, and video games.
All of these features engage readers through their interactivity, making the process of reading a magazine more of a active experience.
After you have decided which platform you want to use you can start thinking about which tables you want to target. You cannot produce a perfect publication for all of the tablets on the market. That would last for months since there are so many tablets on the market that are made in different screen sizes, resolutions and aspect ratios.
This brings us to the next consideration.
Deciding on multiple devices
It is easy to get lost in the sea of tablets. iPads, Galaxys, Nooks, Fires, Kindles, Nexuses, the list can go on and on. iOS based, Android based, Windows based. So many choices and so easy to get lost.
You can lose the millions of potential readers on other devices if you decide to design for a single device, even if it is the market leader.
The best is to stick to several top selling tablets like iPads, Android based Kindle Fire and Nexus.
This will target the 10 inch and 7 inch screens. Designs for 10 inch iPads can easily be adjusted to 10 inch Android based tablets and 7 inch iPad Mini design can be adjusted for another 7 inch based tablets like Nook for example.
The adjusting can be easily done in InDesign CS6 and CC through the liquid layout options.
If you are short on the budget or on a staff or facing other obstacles, go with 10 inch tablet.
Deciding on the resolution
When thinking about screen sizes, think in pixel dimensions not in inches.
If you think 72 dpi is the standard for screen resolution, think again. Just like in physical size tablets differ in screen resolution. iPad3 for example has a resolution of 264 ppi (pixel per inch). All other manufacturers are finding ways to increase the resolution of their devices.
One solution is to work with the already print ready resolutions of 300 dpi. If you are converting print publication to digital, don’t change anything and if you are starting from the scratch, stick with 300 dpi and this resolution will then be down-sampled to fit the intended screen resolution during the export process. If you want to shrink the size of final app, resize all of the images to 264 ppi which is the maximum resolution any tablet has.
In pixel sizes your images should be big enough to fit the entire iPad3 screen size of 2048×1536 pixels. This will give you crisp images on iPad3 and all other devices.
After you have adjusted the resolution it is time to deal with the aspect ratio.
Display aspect ratio
This is the most important design decision you will have to face. iPad 1, 2 and 3 have an aspect ratio of 4:3, although iPad3 has a much larger screen resolution. 2048×1536 against 1024×768 pixels on iPads or the first and second generation. iPhones and iPods have the same aspect ratio just like many Andorid tablets.
Why is aspect ratio important? Pixel dimensions can easily be scaled down to look good on any device but it is not the same with aspect ratios. If you work in 4:3 aspect ratio and someone view your publication on a wide 16:9 aspect ratio tablet your publication won’t fit that screen perfectly. Your 4:3 publication won’t be uniformly scaled down to 16:9 aspect ratio. This will result in black empty spaces at the top and bottom edges.
This is why you should choose which devices you want to target and find the resolution you want to meet and then determine the aspect ratio of your design.
Your best choice would be 4:3 aspect ratio with images at 264ppi and in 2048×1536 dimensions.
Horizontal, vertical or dual orientation?
After all these technical decisions have been made you can decide on the orientation of your publication.
Will you be designing for horizontal or vertical viewing or for both.
Some magazines can be viewed in vertical orientation, some with horizontal and some in both. Designing for both orientations means twice the work.
There is a big discussion about the viewing orientation of digital magazines. Some say the natural way is to make vertical only design, while others say it is more natural to consume content for tablets in a horizontal orientation. The best solution would be dual orientation, but this means more work.
If you have a print ready files available it is easy to convert them to 1536×2048 (vertical resolution of iPad3).
The drawback to creating a single-orientation layouts is that you may take away the reader’s preferred method of reading.
The nature of your publication can also determine the orientation. If you are creating some product catalog, or newspaper like publication, maybe horizontal only layout is better, while if you are doing a magazine, vertical only can be better solution.
This brings us to the last concern.
Single app or multi viewer app?
This concern is also determined by the nature of your publication. If you are producing one off catalog or a special edition of your publication then the single app is your choice.
If you are creating multi issue magazine that will be published on a periodic basis then the multi viewer app is your choice.
We have covered all of the things you should consider before starting your publication. If you have something to ask or would like to point out something we have missed, please comment or send us an email. We would love to hear your opinions.
Category: Digital Pub